The four Flower Mound Town Council candidates participated in a televised forum on Wednesday night at Flower Mound Town Hall hosted by The Cross Timbers Gazette.
There are contested races in Places 2 and 5 on town council. In Place 2, David Johnson is challenging incumbent Sandeep Sharma. Ann Martin is challenging incumbent Claudio Forest in Place 5. Meet the candidates here.
In Wednesday’s forum, Martin and Johnson both looked to differentiate themselves from their respective incumbent opponents. Johnson said he’s running because of dysfunction among the Town Council.
“Their disjointed decision-making, lack of strategic vision and they’ve created a toxic environment with our town staff,” Johnson said, pointing to the recent departure of Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos. “It’s very key that we find a new town manager that can continue the legacy of Jimmy Stathatos … Finding a new town manager is our biggest issue right now.”
Sharma said he viewed development and traffic as the biggest issue facing the town.
“To mitigate traffic, my approach is to make sure the density is under control,” he said, adding that he’s moved to add turn lanes to busy intersections “to have traffic move smoothly and faster. For the next couple of years, that’s going to be my priority.”
Forest also pointed to development as the biggest issue facing the town, saying that he wants to negotiate with developers to improve the town.
“It’s not only allowing them to build what they want, it’s also trying to get amenities for our people,” Forest said, giving parks and another community center in the west part of town as examples. “Things of that nature are important, and you can’t get those things from developers when you absolutely say no to everything and want to stifle their development.”
Martin has made a major part of her platform the preservation of trees and the town Master Plan.
“I think the most urgent problem facing Flower Mound today is the root of many other problems, and that is erosion — decision by decision — of our Master Plan,” she said. “This is the root cause of increased density, traffic and destruction of trees. We should try to maintain the integrity of the Master Plan … We still need to understand the value of the Master Plan and how it helps us preserve and protect our beautiful town.”
Sharma and Martin agreed that Flower Mound doesn’t need anymore apartments, while Forest said it depends on the specific development proposal and Johnson promoted “inter-generational solutions for housing.”
“We need to enlarge our tax base .. and we need to be open to variety of people that can come to Flower Mound,” he said. “Apartment dwellers in Flower Mound have more disposable income, generally have younger families and are helping with our declining elementary school enrollment. They likely will buy a home in Flower Mound someday.”
The candidates were asked about what the “right development” is for the town, and Sharma and Martin said they’d like to see a mixed-use development with work-live-play balance, Sharma specifically pointed to the proposed Furst Ranch development at FM 1171 and Hwy 377 as a good opportunity. Johnson said he isn’t sure there is a “right development,” but the town should be open to many options, and Forest said mixed-use developments aren’t going to happen without apartments or condos.
“In today’s market, a mixed-use has to have apartments or condos or higher density to bring enough people that the restaurants, retail and office buildings are willing to put their money on the line and invest in that space,” Forest said. “Without density, without people, there is no quality retail or restaurants that are going to guess that somebody’s going to come in the doors.”
Regarding the most-requested amenity or service, Forest said the town should connect its trail system, Martin said people want a performing arts center and tennis center, Johnson said parks will come with new developments and Sharma said the most common request he hears is for parks, and he doesn’t believe the town has enough of them.
“We have a lot of development that’s going to be happening on the west side, so we need to specifically look at how we can build more parks there, have more open spaces there and have other amenities to go with that, like a rec center,” Sharma said.
The four candidates were also asked about the town acquiring land to protect natural areas from future development. Forest and Johnson said they wouldn’t support that without bond elections, while Sharma and Martin were more open to the idea, depending on budget and property. However, Martin said buying land shouldn’t be necessary.
“I think it’s great to save our natural resources,” Martin said. “Open spaces should come from the developers and the tenets set out in our Master Plan.”
The entire forum is available to view below: